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Old 04-12-2007, 01:35 PM   #117
Pete Rihaczek
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 61
Re: The internal 'how to' thread... let's hope

Mike Haft wrote: View Post
This whole debate seems a bit like this. People say these skills are absent from aikido. This is not true, though they may be absent from a lot of aikido maybe even most of it for all I know, but they definitely aren't absent from it totally. People start talking about Chinese internal arts and their skills and saying that these are the skills missing from aikido. How do they know? They are certainly similar skills but are they the same? I don't think they are. For example, I'm not sure fajing is necessarily a part of aikido's internal repertoire, it certainly doesn't appear to be hugely prevalent in film of O Sensei and others. The discussion is interesting and productive but I don't think you necessarily have to go to see Dan Harden or Mike Sigman or anyone else to learn these things, I think they are more common than many people give credit. Maybe that's just me being optimistic, dunno.

Yes, I think you're being very optimistic. If it were prevalent in Aikido these discussions wouldn't exist. There may be slightly different approaches to getting higher levels of this skill, but I think it's pretty obviously one skill that Asian arts hold in highest regard as being the physical manifestation of Ki. I don't see any reasonable way to interpret the stories of Ueshiba's seemingly effortless power as a different skill. Ellis Amdur has posted video of Ueshiba doing fajin. More than one video isn't really necessary, is it? He could do it, or not. Secrecy is the norm, and when it comes to large organizations like Aikikai or Kodokan dedicated to worldwide spread of an art, the idea of sharing this sort of stuff and openly teaching it has an enormous host of problems, not least of which is that many people high in an organization don't necessarily know anything about it, even if they did it's difficult and might slow the adoption of an art (how many people with jobs and families, particularly in the West, will work on standing practice and other seemingly pointless exercises in lieu of something that seems more immediate?), etc. All these issues have been touched on before.

Again I recall my Okinawan karate days, doing Sanchin while being pushed from various angles, being hit with bamboo, and I thought it was silly. How was I supposed to keep from being pushed? What was the point of being hit? My teachers didn't know, but they were copying the procedure. Had I stayed with it and earned a high rank, how would I react to the idea that I didn't really understand anything about the nature of Sanchin kata? I would hope I would react with an open mind, but the more people have invested in an art the more resistant they are to such an idea. Objectively, it would be the height of arrogance for me to proclaim that there could be anything to Sanchin that I didn't know about, just because I had invested many years in practice. Meanwhile the reality is if I performed Sanchin for some gnarled old Okinawan geezer who happened to know some of the real deal, he could see in two seconds that I have absolutely nothing of the real art, whether I can fight or not. What if he were honest and told me I have nothing? How you handle that prospect I think is a real test of martial character and ego.

The reason that Chinese internal artists are being discussed is simply because the people doing the discussing have actually met them and know that they have real skills. I don't know who in Aikido does. Again it's probably easier to pinpoint in various Chinese lineages because they are small and the knowledge is passed from family member to family member for generations and to select favored students, but as soon as you get a large organization together you get the same scenario. As a percentage, the number of people who are highly skilled in this area vs. the number who do taiji worldwide is tiny, just like in Aikido. It takes more of a Western mentality to try to codify this stuff, analyze it, strip it of decorative ki-based explanations and try to figure out how it's really done so that people with a life can get a handle on it. The only Asian guy I know of who tries to do that at all is Akuzawa. I'm sure there are others, but openly teaching this stuff is not the norm by far. You say this stuff is more widely known in Aikido, but when I asked you to name names of people you would recommend as examples of having a high level of the real goods, you couldn't vouch for anybody. That's a contradiction. How do you expect to advance in this area if you don't know who to see to get more how-to information?

Does it really matter that one guy who knows this stuff may be in Aikido, another from Xingyi, etc? What if we take the position that Ueshiba didn't know as much as Chen Xiao Wang does. If it were possible for them to have met, would Ueshiba have rejected the knowledge on how to manifest ki even more? Pretty unlikely, IMO. Ueshiba clearly traveled far and wide to learn what he did, and obviously Takeda was a rather big influence. If a Daito-Ryu master were to offer to show you shortcuts to get closer to Ueshiba's ostensible level, would you reject it on the basis of it not being Aikido (as if you're in a position to judge)? The whole argument is silly from every angle. The worst outcome I suppose is if you were to actually surpass Ueshiba's level of internal skill. Darn. Then you could debate yourself into a coma about whether you should call it Aikido. It's up to you, but I don't intend to reject any pearls cast before me, regardless of their source.

For example, here's a 94 year old Bagua practitioner apparently discussing such things with family members:

Yes, he is going to be in UFC 75 "Geezer Throwdown", in the open weight class wheelchair division. Sorry, had to throw one out for the 12 year olds in the audience. In the last bit in particular he seems to be explaining how he receives force and uses the ground to return it. To the uneducated eye it may look like nonsense and they'll move on. But he is showing how he can take balance as soon as he is grabbed, and there is virtually no visible outward movement. That's not a necessary condition, but it makes the point. I can't do that, though I know of people who can. Unless you feel yourself what he's doing, you're not sure why anybody would lose his balance from grabbing him when you don't see him do anything. It's all the same general skill. Could Ueshiba take someone's balance as soon as they touched him? I think so, if you believe the stories. And why not, since there are people you can go see, like CXW, who can easily show you this in person. Are there 57 totally different ways to do this? Very doubtful, it's one general skillset, the level is just a matter of the degree of skill and body integration.

In general I hesitate to post videos of any sort, because like with words people will see what they want to see, and the most likely response will be either be "it's crap", or "I can do that, just not as well", which misses the point and whitewashes the difference in skill levels that exist, as if anyone with a golf club is Tiger Woods. If I were fortunate enough to witness such a demo it would show me immediately that he has knowledge I'm looking for, regardless of how good he is or was compared to others. If I could be introduced and ask him to show me some things, because I know that I'm looking to understand how certain things are achieved, even if he's a somewhat secretive guy I may end up learning things despite his secretiveness. Or he may see that I comprehend the value of what he's doing and show more. Meanwhile I'm looking for important details, comparing how he does things to other people, etc. You have to keep experiencing the spectrum of skills to start piecing together how the higher skill levels are achieved. If people don't care, or don't want to look around, or think they will get much just by doing more of what they already do it just won't happen. And importantly, the only reason people like Mike, Dan, Rob, and others care to even do this is that they *have* experienced people whose skills are way beyond what you think can be done. Since you can't rattle off a list of names at that level to recommend, it's clear you have not experienced a truly high level of it or there would be no hesitation. There's a reason why those on the "there's more to it than you think" side make such a fuss about it. If you experience what someone like a CXW can do, you would know what the fuss is about, and like many others, you would report back to the forum that there's a whole lot more to it than you ever imagined. And then all the other people who hadn't had that experience would be debating with you, saying that everything you say sounds just like what they already do or their teacher does, and you'd see there's no way to explain it to them. And you'd fall back on the same thing everyone else does: you have to go check it out.

Which brings me back to my first post in this thread, the inevitability of "you have to go look". If I had CXW's knowledge I could easily rattle of page after page of specific how-to's, but even though you started a how-to thread, I haven't seen those pages from you. I know, I know, you don't claim a high level and I certainly don't, but for one thing my musings on the little I know, right or wrong, I could explain in great detail. As the great physicist Richard Feynman said, if we can't explain something so that even a layman understands it, it means we don't know it. The other thing is that I can name names of at least some people who have real ability in case you want to verify if we're talking about the same things. One thing that becomes more and more obvious as you learn more about it is how complicated it is, and how difficult to get the details and get them right. Anyone who expresses the notion that this stuff is *more* common than thought immediately shows he hasn't seen anything all that great. Even if we say for argument's sake that a low level of things is more common in Aikido than thought, how does that meaningfully help one get to a high level? It doesn't. Only dealing with high level people has any chance of getting you to a high level. All I can say is that this is a much bigger puzzle than you're giving it credit for, though whether you believe that is of course up to you.

With that I'm going to leave well enough alone, I simply don't have time to keep up on daily discussions. Good luck in your training, and if all you want is already available to you, more power to you, you're a lucky man. Otherwise, you have to get out and meet people; all the discussion in the world is unfortunately pretty futile as a substitute.
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